Jury Duty


“You were in the movie Sonic?”

Main Cast: James Marsden, Ronald Gladden

Creators: Lee Eisenberg, Gene Stupnitsky

Before watching Jury Duty, I had never heard of a reality hoax sitcom. Sure, there are prank shows out there, mostly mean-spirited affairs meant to scare or embarrass their victims. But a sitcom? One with three Emmy nominations? Hmm….

Jury Duty is the story of one man: Ronald Gladden. Ronald thinks he has signed up to be part of a documentary detailing what it’s like to be a juror. Okay. What Ronald doesn’t know is that the entire thing is fake. Everyone else on the show is an actor.

Day to day, through jury selection, opening arguments, evidence, and deliberations, we watch the eccentric characters of this trial and their effect on the one everyman in the group.

Ronald knows he’s being filmed, he just doesn’t know the real reason why.

Jury Duty could have gone so wrong in so many ways. In lesser hands it could have been nothing more than a typical cruel prank. To my absolute delight, it is nothing of the sort. The characters run the gamut from the very unusual juror with a fascination for inventions and human body parts to the firm and serious judge to James Marsden, playing a self-absorbed version of himself with great glee.

Aside from Marsden, you won’t recognize any of the actors. Of course this had to be the case in order not to give away the secret. But every last one of them steps up and inhabits their character without a hint of hesitation, no matter how strange the situation. They can’t just follow a script, they have to adapt every moment to how Ronald reacts.

The jurors (and Bailiff Nikki) get to know each other very well through the three weeks of the trial. They become friends and amateur sleuths, have a night on the town, and organize a birthday party.

Every single bit of it is for the benefit of Ronald. He has infinite opportunities to show his true self, and does so. We get to know him far better than we get to know his fictional friends. His casting was crucial – they needed someone with just the right temperament to engage with the rest of the cast. Ronald’s personality shaped the entire production. Bravo to casting director Susie Farris, who is nominated for an Emmy for her outstanding work.

The concept does sound cruel. But the show goes to extraordinary lengths to keep things weird and interesting without becoming a farce or exploiting its unknowing star. It’s not all acting; these people really do come to care for one another.

Jury Duty is like nothing I’ve seen before. With the warm, pure heart of the Great British Baking Show and the comic sensibility of The Office, the series gets better with every episode. It’s Reality TV with all the benefits of great comedy writing and an experienced cast and crew. It’s a Freevee original; you can watch it free with ads or without ads if you have Amazon Prime.

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